James Stirling

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Rear Admiral Sir James Stirling, commander-in-chief of the British Royal Navy's East India Station, was a British naval officer who in 1854 signed the Anglo-Japanese Convention of 1854 with Nagasaki bugyô Mizuno Tadanori, opening the ports of Hakodate and Nagasaki to British vessels and securing a number of other provisions for Britain as well.

Stirling first arrived in Japan on 1854/int.7/15, entering Nagasaki harbor aboard his flagship the HMS Winchester, alongside three other ships: the HMS Encounter, HMS Styx, and HMS Barracouta. With the help of interpreter Yamamoto Otokichi,[1] he explained that Britain was currently at war with Russia, and requested permission from the Tokugawa shogunate to freely come and go in and out of Japanese ports. According to most historians' accounts, seeking out and attacking Russian ships including those headed by Captain Yevfimy Vasilyevich Putyatin was among his chief aims. Another was to see if Japan would be willing to help shelter, repair, and supply British ships while denying the same to their Russian adversaries; according to historian Mitani Hiroshi, Stirling expected the shogunate to not agree to this and to insist upon neutrality in the British vs. Russian conflict. Mitani also suggests that Stirling had neither the expectation or intention, nor the rightful power, to seek or conclude formal treaties with other countries but that because of the shogunate's stressful and very recent experiences with Putyatin and with Commodore Perry, the shogunate presumed that Stirling came seeking similar concessions, and in light of the outcome of the Opium War a decade earlier were fearful of the possible repercussions of resisting what they imagined would be the British captain's demands. It was amidst this context, and some degree of misunderstandings and miscommunications due to matters of language and interpretation, that roughly a month after Stirling's arrival, the Anglo-Japanese Convention of 1854 was drafted and signed.

Stirling returned to Nagasaki on 1855/3/24 aboard the Winchester, seeking the exchange of ratification instruments for the Convention.[2] The Styx, Encounter, and HMS Tartar accompanied him. After roughly one month in Hakodate (1855/5/24-6/26, with the Winchester, Nanking, Pique, and Tartar), Stirling returned to Nagasaki.[3]


  • Mitani Hiroshi, David Noble (trans.), Escape from Impasse, International House of Japan (2006), 222-232.
  • Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 1 (1937), 632.
  1. Mitani, 223.
  2. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 2 (1937), 34.
  3. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 2 (1937), 84.